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REFUGEES: Uganda says won’t let Israel ‘Dump Refugees Here,’ but Israel tells court will deport there

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Asylum seekers gather in south Tel Aviv’s Levinsky garden after hearing the initial news on the deal to absorb them that was suspended by Netanyahu on April 2, 2018. Meged Gozani

HAARETZ – Israel Says May Deport Asylum Seekers to Uganda; Uganda: We Won’t Let Israel ‘Dump Refugees Here’If Israel will not be able to send asylum seekers to Uganda, the government said, it will release those held at Saharonim Prison for refusing to be sent there.

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The Population, Immigration and Border Authority announced Wednesday that it will release 58 asylum seekers held at Saharonim Prison later in the day.

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The 58 had been imprisoned for refusing to be deported to Rwanda as part of the expulsion plan that was supposed to commence on April 1, but was subsequently suspended. They are to be released now that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is no longer an option.

Earlier, the Israeli government told the Supreme Court that it was examining the possibility of deporting asylum seekers to Uganda, despite the latter country’s foreign minister denying any such agreement.

Ugandan State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem PHIL MOORE / AFPWithout mentioning Uganda by name, the government said it had sent a special envoy to an African country to examine its suitability as a destination for asylum seekers.

If it transpires that Israel will not be able to send asylum seekers to Uganda, the government said, then it will release the rest of the 270 held at Saharonim Prison.

Uganda’s foreign affairs minister was unambiguous in his denial.

“We do not have a contract, any understanding, formal or informal, with Israel for them to dump their refugees here,” Henry Okello Oryem was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. He added that if any migrants deported from Israel arrive in Uganda, “we will insist that the airlines return them to the country where they came from.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that Israel is canceling a deal with the United Nations refugee agency to resettle African asylum seekers in Israel. The deal was annnounced by Netanyahu himself on Monday afternoon.

The deal was set to stop the forced deportation of asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda and Uganda, resettling 16,250 of them in the country and the same number in Western countries. Hours later, following pressure from within his party and from coalition members, Netanyahu decided to suspend the deal, even though he has already signed it.

Explaining that an initial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda had fallen apart, he said he then sought to resolve the matter through an agreement with the UN refugee agency. He placed blame for Rwanda’s reconsideration of the agreement to accept asylum seekers from Israel on the New Israel Fund and European Union officials.

The expulsions were to begin April 1, but the Supreme Court has temporarily suspended them until it rules on two petitions, filed by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Eitay Mack, which note that both Rwanda and Uganda have refused to accept asylum seekers deported from Israel against their will.

It emerged on Tuesday that Netanyahu is now examining several options for a deportation plan. Among them is the possibility of finding a different country in Africa (though not Rwanda or Uganda, which are now off the table) that would agree to take in asylum seekers. Yet another option is to reopen the Holot detention facility, which was recently closed.

Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: April 04, 2018 at 12:58PM

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